How to use BitLocker encryption in Windows 10

One of the extra features you get in Windows 10 Pro, compared to the Home version, is BitLocker. It allows you to encrypt all the data on your hard drive(s) so no-one can access it without your Windows login details.

If someone takes the drive out of your PC and tries to access them via another one, the contents will be unreadable. It sounds like a great idea, but there drawbacks and requirements you should be aware of first:

  • BitLocker has a performance hit, especially if you have to use software encryption
  • If you ever forget or lose your password you may not be able to access your own files
  • You ideally need a computer with a TPM chip

You should also be aware that there is an alternative to BitLocker: an SSD with full-disk encryption. With such a drive, the contents are encrypted automatically but this is transparent to Windows, so it treats it like any other drive.

Typically, this option is not enabled by default so you might have to download the manufacturer\’s software (such as Samsung\’s Magician) to switch on the encryption. You might find this involves formatting the drive, in which case you\’ll have to copy off any data you need first, and potentially re-install Windows if it\’s your boot drive.

Do I need a TPM chip for BitLocker?

No, but without a Trusted Platform Module chip, BitLocker has to use a software-based method which isn\’t as secure. It usually means reduced read and write performance too, and requires you to insert a specific USB flash drive and enter a password in order to boot up your PC each time. That, in turn, means your motherboard\’s BIOS must allow booting from USB drives.

To check if your computer meets BitLocker\’s requirements – if you have Windows 10 version 1803 or later – open Windows Defender Security Centre from the Start menu and click on Device Security in the left-hand menu.

  How to use BitLocker

If you\’re still stuck, check Microsoft\’s FAQ for BitLocker.

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